Wet start for Sto. Niño fiesta
Rainy weather is expected to greet the start of activities for the Sinulog festival as a low pressure area enters the country tomorrow and delivers a wet weekend.
A dawn procession this morning opened the religious calendar of Cebu’s annual Sto. Niño feast, with devotees bringing umbrellas ready for chilly, wet weather as they walked from Fuente Osmeña to the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño for the “Walk with Jesus.”
Fr. Jonas Mejares, Basilica rector, said heavy crowds are expected to come for daily novena masses, with the ordeal of typhoon Yolanda and October’s 7.2-magnitude earthquake fresh on their minds.
“Let us make this fiesta celebration an occasion to pray harder to the Sto. Niño. We can only find strength in God after what we went through last year. God has the power to let us move on amid the trials, and to hope for better things to come this year,” he said.
On Friday, the revelry of the Sinulog will kick off with a parade to the Cebu City Sports Center, the presentation of Miss Cebu contestants and a weekend of more parades of public school students competing for the top 5 slots and the honor of joining the grand parade on January 19. (See page 4 and 5).
The state weather bureau said a low pressure area would enter on Friday and may develop into a tropical depression that would bring heavy rains on Saturday. If a storm follows, it would make landfall on Sunday over the Eastern Visayas-Bicol area.
Cebu and the rest of the Visayas has been experiencing cloudy skies and rain since the start of the week. This is due to the convergence of the northeasterly and easterly winds, the weather bureau Pagasa said.
“In 2012, about 1.2 million people visited the Basilica. Last year, it was estimated at 2.7 million. With that trend, I believe we’ll have a much thicker crowd this year,” said Fr. Mejares.
Since the main part of the Basilica is closed to the public, Mejares said devotees attending the novena masses in the courtyard of the Pilgrim Center will overflow to nearby streets around the church.
Five large LED screens and two flat screens are mounted inside and outside the church grounds for people to view the Mass.
Wooden kiosks that serve as communion stations are a new feature. Lay ministers will be stationed there to distribute sacred hosts to the faithful during communion so they don’t have to crowd around the altar.
The area below the damaged bell tower is sectioned off with palm trees and tarp banners with the schedule of activities for the Fiesta Señor, which are spearheaded by the Agustinian fathers who administer the Basilica.
The belfry collapsed during the Oct. 15 earthquake last year and conservation experts are studying how to rehabilitate it before 2016.
Red and yellow umbrellas are also available for devotees should it rain, but these have to be returned after use.
The annual “Walk with Jesus” from Fuente Osmeña to the Basilica at 4:30 a.m. today ushered in this year’s celebration with the theme “Sto. Niño: Hope of the People.”
After the two-kilometer prayer walk, Fr. Mejares will officiate the first Novena mass at 5:30 a.m. in the Pilgrim Center where the fiesta’s main sponsors, a Hermano and Hermana Mayores, will be installed.
The basilica complex will be open 24 hours a day starting today until Jan. 19 to accommodate the throngs of devotees who come to pay homage to the image of the child Jesus.
At least 11 Masses a day are being celebrated in the Basilica in Cebuano and English: 4 a.m., 5:30 a.m., 7 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The chapel where the original image of the Sto. Nino is enthroned remains open to the public.
The side chapel is located to the left of the basilica’s main altar.
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